Recently, I came across a video and a news report where it has been reported that a man from India has invented a car which uses water as a key fuel component. The car runs on acetylene gas produced by the reaction of water and calcium carbide in the car's fuel tank. The source of the video is this post off Facebook from History TV18.

The claims are too good to be true and I doubt them. However, I do not know much about cars, automobile/mechanical engineering, and chemistry to check the veracity of the claims. How legitimate are the claims? Do they hold any merit?

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    This is like saying that they've developed a car that runs on air (oh, and some gasoline). – RBarryYoung Apr 11 '16 at 21:13

The car does not run on water. The article you link says quite clearly that "The car runs on acetylene gas".

Acetylene is an explosive gas that is used for welding, and before the invention of electric lamps it was used for lighting. It is produced from the reaction of calcium carbide and water, as follows:

CaC2 + 2H2O → Ca(OH)2 + C2H2

The problem is that, while water is cheap, CaC2 is not. It is normally made from methane - which would be a better and cheaper fuel. Converting it to Calcium Carbide is done by partial combustion, so some of the energy available in methane is lost.

For more information on acetylene, see the Wikipedia article.

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    +1. Acetylene is what spelunkers' lamps used to use for fuel (and, for all I know, still may), so it's a very old technology and a very simple one. – Robusto Apr 11 '16 at 2:00
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    Actually I think actylene lamps came long after torches :-) – jamesqf Apr 11 '16 at 5:06
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    @jamesqf : in some English dialects, torch = flashlight – vsz Apr 11 '16 at 11:01
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    Saying that water is the "key fuel component" in this is a bit like claiming that water is the "key component" of nuclear fusion because it's where we get the Deuterium. :-D – DevSolar Apr 11 '16 at 11:02
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    Better analogy: Saying that this car runs on water is like saying that cars with gasoline engines run on oxygen. – Dennis Apr 11 '16 at 16:46

Not much to add to the chemical/technical background already mentioned by hdhondt.

A carbide (or better an acetylene) motor for the use in vehicles was invented much earlier. The earliest reference (german) I've found is an article in „Mitteilungen des schweizerischen Azetylen-Vereins“, Heft 10 vom Oktober 1918 (Bulletin of the Suisse Acetylene-Company - Issue 10 October, 1918) which mentions experiments with a "light motor vehicle" (mileage ~35 pounds of calcium carbide/100 miles), a 6 hp motor cargoship and a motorcycle with a range of ~75 miles.

The linked article also mentions similar tests in Germany (pre-WW1) which weren't very "satisfactory".

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